September Issue: Cancer and Coping by Metaphor

In today’s post, we bring you the work of Anna W Gustafsson, Charlotte Hommerberg, Anna Sandgren, about their project at Linnaeus University: Metaphors in palliative cancer care: Coping by metaphors: the versatile function of metaphors in blogs about living with advanced cancer. From their home page: To render the ungraspable graspable, metaphors are frequently used drawing on their capacity to capture the abstract and unknown in terms of more concrete and familiar experiences. The significance of metaphors is particularly tangible in highly personal or sensitive communicative situations. Read more about the project here. And to hear a few words from the authors:


In our article “Coping by metaphors”, we bring to the fore the experience of living with life-limiting cancer illness, an experience shared by growing numbers of people today due to continuously advancing treatment methods. How does one try to understand and come to terms with the situation and the turmoil of feelings that it gives rise to, such as constant fear of loss, suffering and dying, but also the desire to make the most of the time still left to live? Language plays an important part when people perceive and make sense of these experiences, but the role of language use is still not fully understood. Our study combines psychological theories of coping, i.e. people’s response to a crisis, with a linguistic analysis of online blogs written in Swedish by bloggers diagnosed with advanced cancer. We unravel possible coping strategies by close analysis of the bloggers’ use of metaphoric language, where the experience of living with advanced cancer is described in terms of something else, such as a battle, a journey or imprisonment, and shed light on the different coping strategies that are enabled or expressed by the metaphors. The research group consists of researchers in linguistics and researchers and educators in palliative care.


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